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Intermittent Fasting + CrossFit = Decrease in Strength

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 09, 2012 at 9:35 PM

I'm in my mid-30s and a mother of 2. The younger one just turned one and is still nursing twice every 24-hour period. We have been eating Paleo during the week for the past 8 months, but on the weekend we have red wine in the evenings and add whole milk to our morning coffees as a treat. We have also been CrossFitting for the past year. Since the new year, we've been going 5 days a week.

We have seen slow but significant progress in terms of body composition and level of fitness. But we still have at least 20 lbs of fat to lose each. I'm currently at 29% body fat and he at 20%. (We do dunk tests every few months.)

For the past two months, my husband and I have added Intermittent Fasting to our regiment. We are using the Eat Stop Eat principle of fasting for 24 hours twice every week. We switch up the days, but generally it is from 8AM to 8AM.

The problem is, in order for us both to get our workouts in, we take turns going in the mornings at 6:30. This means that sometimes, during a fasting window, I will be working out at 7:30PM one night (after having fasted since 8AM) and then again at 6:30AM the following day, before finally eating at 8AM. When I do eat, it's Paleo and I do not count calories, just eat until I'm full. I get plenty of meat, good fats, and vegetables, with the occasional fruit.

Though the scale hasn't budged much for me, I have definitely noticed some shrinkage. I've dropped a bra size (though that could be because I'm nursing less), my belly--which has always been the great problem area--has shrunk considerably, and my jeans fit better around the thighs and butt.

My husband has dropped 10 lbs and has shown remarkable change in his face and belly. He's wearing size 34 pants for the first time in years.

Here's the issue. While I'm showing obvious improvement in the MetCons, in terms of speed and endurance, I am losing strength in my lifts. Deadlift, for example, was 265#, is now 245#. Back squat was 170#, is now 145#, etc. But, I'm consistently getting stronger in my dips and pull-ups, and dropped to a smaller band in each recently (purple and red respectively).

Am I overtraining? Am I not eating enough? Should I jut focus on losing the fat first and concentrate on gaining strength later?

(By the way, my husband has been making slow strength gains AND showing improvement in his MetCons, so this seems to be only affecting me. Maybe it's also because I'm still nursing, albeit just twice a day...)

E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on March 09, 2012
at 10:47 PM

Shouldn't people hold off on IF until they know they are ready?

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9 Answers

2
246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on March 10, 2012
at 03:19 PM

Don't try to have your cake and eat it too. There is a reason why powerlifters do not train like discus throwers, and vice versa. Granted, both are strong... and both could probably do well in either sport with a couple of months specificity in their training, but the goals are different, and therefore the training is different.

If your metcons are improving but your strength is going down, I would say that you have simply specialized towards metcon. You are crossfitting 5 days a week, what did you think would happen? Strength gains come fastest when you lift heavy, infrequent (compared to daily lifting), and rest sufficiently.

So, my suggestion is to ignore your personal bests on the lifts until you get where you want with the metcon workouts. THEN, switch out your training for more infrequent (2-3 sessions/week), strength (5x5 stuff) workouts until you set a couple PR's. Then go back to the metcon and see how you fared.

Bouncing back and forth between different "blocks" every 6 weeks or so is one way to achieve a happy balance between strength and conditioning - this is the plan that Rippetoe pushes in his book, Practical Programming. The other way (and the way I'm most familiar with) is to cut back the metcons to 1-2 times a week, add 2 days weekly of strength training, and achieve some kind of balance in your training. Anyone would get less strong on the core lifts if they were crossfitting 5 days a week.

2
79fc447191de75e7c178951594a43f13

(448)

on March 10, 2012
at 03:50 AM

You probably are overtrained. Going to crossfit five times a week is a lot plus you are nursing and doing IF. Take a break for a couple of weeks from crossfit and IF, then go 2-3 times a week for crossfit. Pick up the IF only if there is no stress in your life.

1
1ec4e7ca085b7f8d5821529653e1e35a

(5506)

on March 10, 2012
at 01:12 PM

I agree that you are probably not eating enough. I have never done workouts twice in a 24 hour fasting period so there may e something there. Are you at least taking some BCAAs before/after the workouts to mitigate muscle loss?

Are you doing heavy lifting? It is hard to maintain raw strength on a caloric deficit without continuing to lift heavy. If you've been constantly in a deficit and NOT lifting that could be part of it. You have to realize that gains will slow down considerably and sometimes reverse when you are trying to lose weight and body fat. Maybe you've slowed down and need to make your caloric deficit smaller.

1
Db4ad76f6f307a6f577e175710049172

on March 10, 2012
at 07:43 AM

You're probably not eating enough. Also, since you are nursing, that's going to affect your recovery ability. Also, when I started doing keto, and not counting calories very effectively, all my lifts went down, while I was getting smaller. I think this could have been from my muscles losing volume from not having any glycogen, so this could be playing a role in your situation.

If you want to keep IFing, I'd say do it once per week, and make sure you're eating enough to support your training and nursing.

1
1cd9c25e427dcab8c094a9679699730b

on March 09, 2012
at 10:31 PM

Only fast once per week check out http://www.precisionnutrition.com/intermittent-fasting.

E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on March 09, 2012
at 10:47 PM

Shouldn't people hold off on IF until they know they are ready?

0
4e35234c4ac63dfc0bb69c71ca9b431f

(15)

on March 30, 2012
at 05:28 PM

Thanks, everyone, for your input. I've made some changes and seen some improvement.

First off, I discovered that after two months of IF, I'd only lost one lb of fat and gained 1 lb of muscle. So yeah, not very impressive results. Wasn't worth skipping 48 hours of eating a week. Instead, I'm fasting 16 hrs and eating for 8 hours every day. This means I usually just skip breakfast, which is no problem.

I've been feeling far more energetic and stronger. I've PR'ed on all my lifts this week and am still doing well on my METCONS. Although I'm still going to CrossFit 5 days a week, one day is spent drilling O-Lift technique (while not lifting very heavy) and another day is spent focusing on gymnastic drills. Both are far easier in terms of the toll they take on my body. This means I'm only lifting heavy and doing METCONS three times a week.

We'll see what results this new regiment brings in the next few months.

0
Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on March 10, 2012
at 02:41 PM

I got myself a whipping case of pneumonia after my second child, when he was 3 months old, because I was so anxious to get back in shape and lose all the fat I'd gained in my two pregancies that I pushed my body far beyond what it could manage. If I were you on the fasted day I'd skip crossfit and go for a long slow walk. You can push a stroller and take your kids! Crossfit 5x a week is kind of a lot.

0
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20898)

on March 10, 2012
at 04:08 AM

I've commented on this a bunch so you can read my past answers. But the short story is: only do IF if you have everything else dialed in and it's easy for you. If it adds any stress to you (like working out fasted) then it's doingote harm than good.

0
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on March 09, 2012
at 09:50 PM

Check Dr. Kruse's site to see if you are leptin resistant. If you are, IF is not the thing for you until you get that fixed. Belly fat is the dead-giveaway.

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